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Peru: 75% of pepper varieties in danger

At least three quarters (75%) of the pepper varieties that exist in Peru are destined for consumption by the grower and would be at risk of disappearing if they aren't exploited commercially, said the researcher of the Vegetable Program of the National University Agraria La Molina (UNALM), Roberto Ugaz.

He said that this would imply a loss of biodiversity. As an example, he pointed out that a large part of the peppers harvested in the UNALM was obtained from orchards for self-consumption (where the seeds were delivered by the grandparents) and not from commercial farms. 

"We might lose these peppers, if young people don't want to stay in the field anymore. The markets are one of the mechanisms to avoid losing them. Exports are very important, but only a few varieties manage to be exported. It would be better if Peruvians began to consume them because they are right here, and because we know their history," he said. 

Peru's National Pepper Catalog 
Roberto Ugaz said that the UNALM and the National Institute of Agrarian Innovation (INIA) were working on a a joint project to publish the first national catalog of Peruvian peppers next year, which will unify the germplasm collection of both institutions. This project is financed by the National Agrarian Innovation Program (PNIA).

He also said that part of the work was to cultivate these collections, evaluate them, and determine which peppers that are not yet in the national markets are promising. 

"Normally these peppers are conserved by small farmers in orchards or gardens and only reach the market of the nearest town (not even the capital of the region). We are identifying these promising accessions, which have good productive yields, are tolerant to diseases and pests, and have a potential in gastronomy. We produce these seeds and make them available to producers who want to try these crops," he said.

Processed products will be fundamental
The researcher of the Vegetable Program of the UNALM also said that not all varieties of peppers have potential as a fresh or dehydrated product, so processing will be essential for commercialization. Processed chili has to be understood as a trend that is already global, he added.

"The consumption of hot sauces has been growing. Mexican sauces dominate the US market, and sauces from North Africa dominate England. That's where Peruvian peppers have a great possibility, even more than dispatching them in fresh. These products are not known and some are too spicy. It has much better value in a sauce," he said.

Due to the particular flavors of Peruvian peppers, they could play a good role as sauces and spicy creams and satisfy the requirements of consumers seeking new experiences, and exotic and strong flavors.


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